The Rwandan army has intervened in eastern DR Congo in recent months, directly and in support of armed groups, according to a report by experts commissioned by the United Nations.
Since November 2021, the Rwandan army has “launched military interventions against Congolese armed groups and positions of the Congolese Armed Forces”, according to this report sent to the UN Security Council and consulted Thursday August 4 by AFP.
Experts say Kigali also “provided troop reinforcements to the M23 for specific operations, particularly when these aimed to seize towns and strategic areas”. The March 23 Movement (M23) is a former Tutsi-dominated rebellion defeated in 2013, which took up arms again at the end of last year to demand the application of an agreement signed with Kinshasa.
Since the end of March, the frequency and intensity of the fighting has increased drastically: the M23 has seized parts of the territory of Rutshuru, up to tens of kilometers north of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.
The report of the group of experts demolishes the denials of the Rwandan authorities and details, with supporting evidence, the direct involvement of Rwanda “unilaterally or jointly with the combatants of the M23” in the east of the DR Congo.
On June 13, the strategic town of Bunagana (50 km north of Goma), a commercial crossroads on the Ugandan border, was taken by the M23 after clashes. Drone images provided by Monusco, amateur videos and photos and eyewitnesses establish the presence of the Rwandan armed forces and/or the transfer of their equipment to the M23, in and around the town of Bunagana, the day before and the day before. of the attack.
The Group adds that “eyewitnesses and researchers reported minimal passive complacency by the Ugandan army at the border, which allowed M23 fighters to cross the border” to attack the town.
Rwandan columns observed “repeatedly”
The report states that “on several occasions, aerial images showed large columns of up to 500 armed men near the borders of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, moving in a very organized manner and carrying a uniforms and standardized military equipment (uniforms and helmets very similar to those of the RDF)”, the Rwandan armed forces.
Two weeks before the assault on Bunagana on May 25, the largest Congolese military base in Rutshuru was under heavy fire from mortars and automatic weapons. The Group writes that “the M23 and the RDF jointly attacked the FARDC camp at Rumangabo”.
Made up of 900 to 1,000 men according to estimates, the Rwandan columns “cut the RN2 for several days” and “attacked and dislodged the FARDC from their positions” along this road, vital for Goma. At the same time, “combatants from armed groups supported by some members of the FARDC launched a counterattack on May 26, 2022”, notes the Group.
A video filmed that day and shared on social networks shows militiamen singing and dancing in the Rumangabo camp after its reconquest. On 9 June, during a visit to this camp, the experts were able to observe and photograph members of armed groups alongside the FARDC.
Benevolent gaze of Congolese army officers
An ad hoc coalition of armed groups – including some enemies – formed in May under the benevolent gaze of Congolese army officers, the report said.
Contacted by the Group, “leaders of armed groups, combatants and ex-combatants confirmed their involvement – alone or jointly with certain FARDC soldiers – in the fighting against M23 and/or RDF troops” and confirmed having “received arms and ammunition from certain members of the FARDC on several occasions”.
The report adds that in late May and early June 2022, nearly 300 Rwandan soldiers carried out operations on Congolese soil against predominantly Hutu armed groups: the FDLR and the CMC/FDP (Collective of Movements for Change/Forces de Défense People).
The FDLR, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda, is an armed group founded in Congo by former dignitaries of the Rwandan genocidal regime on the run. Presented as a threat by Kigali, the existence – and the violence – of this militia has justified past Rwandan interventions in Congolese territory and its support for the rebellions which fought them.
Source: France 24